Springing Back to Life

"Your ability to pivot when something is or is not working will make or break you." --Alaina Kaczmarski 

It's been a while... 

Back in January, I was having coffee with my sister and a close friend who we've met since moving to Chicago. It was only by chance that we met, as the window of opportunity was short, which leads me to believe this now cherished friendship was meant to be. 

As conversations often drift at the start of a new year, we began reminiscing, and that eventually led to brainstorming words that summed up our 2016. While I was sitting there in the midst of the conversation, I secretly wondered if you could really sum up 365 days, a calendar year of experiences, an entire trip around the sun, in just a single word, so naturally I was hesitant. But nonetheless, words such as intentionality, awareness, and fulfillment were tossed around, and the simplicity of this idea struck me. 

As millennials, we spend so much time attempting to develop into the multifaceted people we believe we're meant to be, the people the world around us so desperately needs. But that same world is often misleading if you don't know what you want, pulling you in directions you didn't know existed and making you believe you need to be more than what you are. And in those instances, it can be easy to feel lost. 

So winter carried on, and while I was distracted by work, it was a tough season personally, and I was reminded of that every time I left my responsibilities at the hospital. I dealt with bouts of extreme loneliness, I lacked interest in almost everything, including this blog, and I knew I wasn't happy but I could not pinpoint why. In fact, it will never cease to amaze me how a person can be surrounded by almost three million people and still feel so alone. Of course, there were a few highlights throughout the past five months, and I had the chance to see a lot of close friends and family who never failed to lift my spirits. But overall, I felt absent.

However, as life will have it, things have started to turn around. I can't say exactly what began to pull me out of the slump I was in, maybe the more frequent sunshine, maybe a little more goal setting, maybe just looking at everyday happenings from a new perspective, but I know I am beginning to feel better. And sometimes I think it best not to question it. So that is where I stand now, and I have no regrets about it. 

If there was one thing I took away from so many darker days, it was how much I appreciate the light now that I am able to recognize it again. And certainly, it was always there, but it seemed farther off in the distance than usual.

Despite where you are in your journey, it will always be okay to give yourself the opportunity to learn the difference between what you want and what you don't, especially since chances are high that those things are evolving every day. And no matter what you decide, either is okay, but both take time to figure out. Give yourself that time if you need it, and never mistake it for time wasted.   

"The soul will always do what it needs to do." --Tracey Emin

Unpolished

Don't let them just walk away

From you

Without saying every word that you want to.

Without saying every word you think you need to.

Be aware.

How you feel 

Is okay.

In this moment - 

Acknowledge.

To just leave

Is to never return the same.

Forget how they feel +

What they think.

This instant

Is yours.

Also.

Don't forget

You have a say.

Your words need not be polished.

They matter - 

Regardless.

Just speak.

For already in this moment,

The distance

Has grown greater

Than the last

Already. 

So speak,

Out loud.

And leave it all on the table.

For you.

Magic in the Air

"How we behave matters because within human society everything is contageous - sadness and anger, yes, but also patience and generosity. Which means we all have more influence than we realize." --Elizabeth Gilbert 

This time of year, people are always talking about the "magic in the air." In fact, I overheard a woman last week who was laughing and telling another woman she was with that this feeling of magic is what she loves most about the season. 

I began to reflect more deeply about what exactly that magic might be. And while the intricate displays of lights, the warmth of cozy fires, and the endless holiday gatherings surely help, it seemed to me that there was more to it. After all, it's magic. 

Today, Chicago saw it's first snowfall of the year, and it was incredible how captivated people were by it, admittedly, myself included. As I was walking down the street, I began to notice people around me huddled closer than usual, sometimes holding hands, smiling at others as they passed by, and holding doors just a while longer as groups of people behind them made their way out of the flurries. In short, people seemed to be exuding a bit more kindness than I tend to witness throughout other months of the year. 

And I couldn't help but wonder if that could be it - kindness - that magic we're always referring to. Could it be that we all just find it a little more appropriate to simply be kind to one other during the holiday season, giving off a feeling of magic? And if so, why not all year long? 

Kindness, despite the season and despite its form, has the power to break down barriers and to move us. When we are shown kindness, it moves us to be better people ourselves, to give back, and even to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It is a superpower, and we all have it. Kindness is an unexpected strength of emotion and character we all carry with us 365 days a year, yet often forget or choose not to practice it. 

Kindness is a compassion that binds us together and is something we all need, so why not make the effort to utilize this strength not only this holiday season, but well into the next. Let's honor kindness when we see it, cherish it when we receive it, and always give more than we believe we have. Let's allow kindness to be our legacy as we live our lives not just for ourselves, but for others. 

Because a little kindness can go a long way, sometimes spreading a seemingly simple act across the span of the globe. And in thinking about it this way, kindness gives us all the ability to make worldwide change every day.

Isn't that magical? 

"Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won't)." --James Baray 

Finding Contentment Where You Are

"What are you willing to give up to have the life you keep pretending you want?" --Elizabeth Gilbert

At age 24, for the first time in my life, I am working a full-time job utilizing the degrees I worked hard to earn, I live in the beautiful city of Chicago, and I have been blessed with an army of incredible family and friends who treat me better than I deserve on most days. I am so lucky, and although I sometimes find it hard to express, I do realize that. 

I wake up in the morning, and I feel I have purpose, which motivates me to utilize every minute of my day. I am content, and I am happy. Yet I still find my mind often wanders to a time far in the future, and I can't help but ask myself if what I am doing is enough. What am I doing now to ensure I am fulfilled later in my life? Am I on track to reaching my greatest potential? Do I give enough of myself to others? 

Because how do you know? How does anyone know?

Unfortunately, we don't. 

And for asking myself these questions and for always wanting more, some days I feel selfish. I wonder if I simply have not yet mastered the ability to stay in one place long enough to benefit from seeing how I could grow from where I am. I go back and forth with myself trying to resolve this internal struggle, but I have yet to do so. How does one give things a chance without wasting time?

However, the more I fight it, the more I trust that it's never a bad thing to always be looking ahead and to be striving for more, even if that something seems far off or completely out of reach. I certainly don't believe that puts others in a position to say you aren't grateful or that you aren't content with all that you have. Rather, I think it shows your unwillingness to settle for less than you believe you are capable of.

Some hold the belief that we are all on a journey that has been chosen for us. In fact, I cannot say I completely disagree. Despite my internal battle, it has never crossed my mind that I am not exactly where I'm supposed to be; I honestly believe everything happens for a reason. So to a degree, I do believe in fate. However, I also believe you have to show up for your piece of it.

We need to be allowed to change our minds and to change directions on a whim without feeling sorry about it. As soon as we accept that what we are doing matters to us, it no longer matters what anyone else has to say about it. 

Soak in today and live in these moments, for this is the only time your life will look just as it does. Appreciate where you stand, what you've achieved, and all that it's brought you, but never feel sorry for wanting more. Make the choices that bring you happiness, whether that means choosing the chocolate cake or choosing to walk away from someone who no longer helps you grow or choosing to go to medical school. No matter what your future holds, happiness will forever be enough. Have the guts to choose it. 

"Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval." --Susan B. Anthony

You Already Know What To Do

"I don't believe in the wisdom of children, nor the wisdom of the old. There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experiences is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment." --Paul Kalanithi 

When it comes to offering advice, I honestly don't know if I am qualified to be giving any, but have you ever thought to yourself, I should really start taking my own advice? I can say with certainty that I have caught myself wondering this question with more frequency than I will admit today. 

As we grow older and branch out from what we know, our lives become more and more intertwined with relationships and experiences, and at some point we begin feeling comfortable enough with what we know to be true to spread pieces of wisdom, great or small. But more often than not, when caught up in similar situations, in my experience, I find we then don't know what to do ourselves.

Personally, I find I am confident enough to provide feedback and offer guidance to those around me, with the mindset that I am able to put myself in their shoes, but when it comes to standing in my own shoes, the only shoes I have ever actually worn, I find myself starving for what I want to hear. 

Sometimes I think the best advice you could give someone would simply be telling them to take their own advice. Deep down, we already know in our hearts what we want the outcome of a situation to be, it is just a matter of getting there. And more often than not, with enough thought and consideration, we also know how to achieve the outcome we so desire. 

After spending some time thinking back on some of the advice I have offered in the past, both to people on an individual basis as well as on a larger scale, I find myself wishing I was daring enough to take myself up on some of my own bits of encouragement. Below are some I would like to start living out more regularly, which is why I am sharing them here. In short, never hesitate to go out and share your story; we're all more alike than we wish to believe. Share what you know to be true, and remember to have the courage to take yourself up on your own advice. Chances are, even in a pinch, you already know what to do. 

1.) You only get as much out of your experiences as you put into them.

2.) Learn something from everyone around you.

3.) Be devoted to your work; your success depends on you.

4.) Take some risks, and if you're gutsy enough, take plenty of them.

5.) Stay in touch.

6.) Sometimes done is better than perfect.

7.) Make your bed each morning.

8.) Reread your favorite book once a year. 

"Life is an echo. What you send out, comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you. Remember, life is an echo. It always gets back to you. So give it goodness." --Zig Ziglar 

Dear Thirty Year Old Me

As I approach year twenty-five, one of my favorite possessions is a letter to myself I have held onto, written, I believe, in the seventh grade. As you'll read shortly, I discuss the person I hoped to become, as well as many other high expectations I had for myself. And while I wrote the letter to my thirty-year-old self, when I think back on the girl I was then, I can't help but hope she would be proud of the woman I'm becoming. Each time I reread the letter, I get the sense I was wiser then and truly knew what was best for me. I don't always get that sense now, but I do know I'm still trying. My hope today, and always, is that I'm making positive strides towards reaching self-efficacy and that I am able to give myself grace. Because no matter what, we all deserve at least that much. We're doing the best that we can. 

Dear Thirty Year Old Me,

I have high hopes for you.

I hope you're living life like you mean it. I hope you have finally started to live for the moment, rather than in fear of it. I hope you aren't afraid to jump at the right opportunities as well as make mistakes. I hope you still have high expectations for yourself. I hope you are honest, yet still find it in the goodness of your heart to be aware of those around you and what they might be feeling. 

I hope you still realize life is about moments of impact, both recognizing them and creating them. Speaking of impact, I hope you have fulfilled your dream of becoming a great prosthetist and that you don't have to work anymore because you finally found something you are good at and that you love. I hope you will be able to carry out that passion for the rest of your days because passion is what makes you so great. 

I hope you have found that happy medium between working hard and being driven and knowing when to take a break from the world. After all, it can get pretty crazy out there sometimes. 

I hope you have fallen in love. Even if it hasn't worked out, I hope you have known love, no matter what form in came in. I hope you have had more bright days than dark ones. I hope you have been careful and wise in your decision making, but I also hope you've lowered your standards a little. Too much stress doesn't look good on anybody. 

I hope you are happy with yourself and your journey thus far. It takes courage to be content with who you have become and to realize you have made mistakes along the way. 

I hope you are wise beyond your years and have traveled the world simply because you could. This earth is something you have always been passionate about, so to have gotten this far and to not have seen it would have been letting yourself down. 

I hope you have learned to mix things up and to not live as if life were an ordinary experience. Because life, as I'm sure you have come to find, is quite the opposite. Life is extraordinary, and you're here for a reason. It is so precious that I hope you have learned to appreciate each day you have been blessed with. Never forget it can be taken from you at any moment. 

And the people. Oh, the people. I hope you have continued to surround yourself with people who bring you absolute bliss. People who make you laugh have always been the best ones, so I hope you've kept some around. 

I hope you continue to set goals for yourself because it is important to keep reaching forward to to be thinking ahead. 

I hope you have had some good times, yet taken the bad days as they have come your way. 

I hope you have the empathy to see other peoples' points of view, to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, and to be open-minded. I hope you realize the effects a smile can have on someone's day. I hope you realize you have the power to be influential. 

I hope you remember your character. I hope that when people turn their heads, you can continue to be the same hard working, humble person you have always been. You have never understood why people pretend to be something they're not, although I suppose at times we all do it. I just hope you have the courage to be yourself. 

But most importantly, I hope you are happy. I hope you have enough joy in your life to wake up every day with a smile on your face. I hope you still see that the smallest things often go the farthest, and I hope you make someone's day every day because that is what you have always been about. I hope you are able to hold your head high and walk with confidence knowing you have worked hard to become the woman you are. No matter what, you are blessed. 

Be consistent. Take initiative. Believe in something bigger than you. Believe in the truth. Believe in others. Be grateful. Smile. Take chances. Be bold. Stay happy. Accept help when you need it. Respect yourself. Fight for others. Understand your rights. Don't let anyone change you unless it is for the better. Dream big. Keep your hopes high. And always know your limits, but never be afraid to break them. 

See you before I know it, Me